Resort joins day of pension protests

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BLACKPOOL protesters joined a day of national action as they took to the streets in protest at cuts to public service pensions.

Around 20 people gathered in St John’s Square as part of a demonstration organised by Blackpool Against The Cuts.

Nationally, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in a 24-hour UK-wide strike in a dispute with the Government over the changes.

There were major rallies in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston as striking civil servants, NHS workers, border force staff and lecturers took to the streets.

Lancashire Police officers also joined around 32,000 officers who took part in a protest march in London.

In Blackpool, members of the resort’s Trade Council, Unite representatives and PCS, the civil service union spoke out.

And despite the small crowd, it was important for them to be seen according to Peter Hunter, president of Blackpool Trades Council.

He said: “The sheer injustice of the Government’s action has brought people out.

“With cuts to jobs and pensions, it’s the economics of the madhouse.”

The Government says current pension schemes are unfair and unaffordable because people are living longer.

But the unions say members are being “robbed” and will have to pay more and work longer for lower pensions when they eventually retire.

Kath Benson, Unite representative for NHS Blackpool, said: “The changes to the pension scheme shows how the Government has treated us with contempt.

“I don’t want to work until I’m 68 for less money. Low-paid workers keep the NHS going and they deserve a fair pension .”

Terry Bennett, 69, from Grange Park, formed part of the crowd.

He said: “Changes to pensions mean I watch what I spend more. I have to plan ahead to afford shopping and petrol.”

Other public sector workers spoke of their anger.

Andy Boylan, a member of the PCS regional committee, said: “The public sector accounts for the majority of the economy on the Fylde coast with the wages civil servants, NHS staff and teachers.

“I really want to make sure their voices are heard.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden spoke in Parliament urging the Government to rethink cuts to police budgets. He has also launched a petition in the resort.

He said: “The cuts are also hitting preventative policing with budgets being squeezed, hindering our police in being proactive on crime in the town. The link between residents and the police is vital for a safe and strong community.”